LinkedIn logoSo how often do you get an invitation to connect on LinkedIn that leaves you scratching your head and wondering who on earth this so-called ‘friend’ is?

When it first started happening I would often wonder if it was simply that my memory was failing me (I am getting older after all!). People said they were my friends, therefore they must be? But very quickly I worked it out. These people didn’t know me at all. But they had to select a category when using the generic request that is generated when you send an invitation to connect. Or perhaps it is just easier to say ‘friend’ if you don’t actually know someone in business?!.

When I get these messages the overriding question they raise in my mind is ‘why?’. Why do they profess to be my ‘friend’ when we don’t know each other? Why, if they are taking the time and trouble to seek me out, can they not just write a few sentences to explain why they’d like to connect? I’m all for building business links, but I really don’t feel comfortable with this sort of behaviour. To me it feels a little like cyber stalking.

Of course, sometimes it is – a quick visit to a profile page will often make clear that person’s motivation. They may be a recruitment consultant or sales person, so it’s easy to decide whether you want to be part of their particular agenda. But other invitations are far more baffling. I don’t want to snub anyone if they are potentially a useful business contact, but I just want to understand their motives.

Put this kind of behaviour into the ‘real’ world, a networking event for example, and it’s rather like dishing out your business cards totally randomly to anyone and everyone in the room. It’s not going to endear you to any of those people and it’s not a good basis on which to try and start a business relationship or meaningful dialogue about working together.

Doesn’t it make more sense to take a more targeted approach? Tell people why you want to connect and they are more likely to be responsive. You may have shared Group interests or have other connections within your network in common. Whatever the reason, make it clear in your introductory message why you’ve sent an invitation to connect – ‘friend’ is simply not good enough these days.

What’s your experience of connecting with people on LinkedIn? Are you making useful contacts or are you inundated with people trying to sell their wares and services to you?